Soothing Soups: Flavorful and comforting broths are perfect cold weather foods

2013-01-16T00:00:00Z 2014-02-03T12:38:09Z Soothing Soups: Flavorful and comforting broths are perfect cold weather foodsEloise Marie Valadez Eloise.Valadez@nwi.com, (219) 933-3365 nwitimes.com

With cold temperatures upon us, it's a perfect time to dip into the family arsenal of favorite soups.

Soup recipes run the gamut. Home cooks can easily get creative and center their broths around a themed vegetable or ingredient or simply empty the contents of their refrigerator into a pot of steaming liquid to make a flavorful concoction.

"Soup is always warm and comforting. And everyone has fond memories of having a favorite soup whether it's a grandmother's chicken soup or uncle Bob's chili," said Dru Melton, co-author with Jamie Taerbaum, of "The Soupbox Cookbook: Sensational Soups for Healthy Living." Melton and Taerbaum are co-founders of the 17-year-old eatery The Soupbox, which has two locations in Chicago. (thesoupbox.com)

Soup fans rarely tire of having a tasty broth, stew, or chowder for a meal. When talk turns to soup for dinner, this writer immediately thinks of personal favorites including my brother-in-law Lou's delicious beef soup, my friend Sandi's husband Alan's rich and flavorful split pea creation and my aunt Paz's fish soup, which I only had once as a kid but it remains a standout memory.

According to Cathy Cameron, co-owner with her husband Tim, of Foodie's Marketcafe in Dyer, soups are a year-round favorite at the cafe/retail shop. (foodiesmarketcafe.com)

"There's really no (special) season for soup anymore," Cameron said. She added, though they sell a bit more soup in the colder temperatures, there's always a steady clientele for their creations during the summer, too.

Cameron said people look for various soups and are easily willing to try new flavors all the time.

"And there are so many more varieties (in the marketplace) than there used to be," she said, adding it's a frequent addition to people's diets these days.

At Foodie's Marketcafe, Cameron said diners request favorite soups on a daily basis. "They ask us to update our Facebook page on what flavors we have," she said.

Among popular soups at the eatery are Steak and Ale, Tomato Basil and Butternut Squash.

For chef/cookbook author Melton, coming up with different varieties of soup for The Soupbox restaurant and the new cookbook was a rewarding experience.

As he writes: "Soup is more than food. It's friendly. It's a joy." Melton offers 182 recipes for everything from Hearty Fresh Vegetable, Italian Wedding Soup, Yellow Split Pea Soup with Fennel to Lively Lentil Soup with Lemon, Roasted Carrot and Ginger Bisque, and Beer and Cheese with Smoked Bacon Soup.

At The Soupbox, Melton features 12 hot soups daily along with other items including salads, grilled cheese sandwiches and cookies.

"Our number 1 seller is creamy chicken with wild rice and number 2 is lobster bisque," Melton said.

When it comes to making soup at home, Melton said the most important thing to consider if you want great results with soup is "you must use good ingredients and taste along the way."

Another good thing to watch when crafting a soup is seasoning it.

"Hold off on salting it until the end," Melton advises. "You want to get your aromatics or dry spices into the soup early but the salt should be added later."

 Melton hopes home cooks don't shy away from experimenting with the recipes in the book.

"I hope people get inspired and enjoy it and make (the recipes) their own," he said.

Cameron adds once home cooks start experimenting, they'll gain more confidence in their soup making skills.

"Once you make a few different varieties, it's easy to go from there," she said.

According to Cameron, soup is a great family meal because it can be pretty economical as well as healthy.

Try your soup making talents with the following recipes.

Hearty Fresh Vegetable

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 medium carrots, sliced

2 stalks celery, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon parsley

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped

2 medium red skinned potatoes, diced

1 zucchini, quartered and sliced

8 ounces or one cup of green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 ear sweet corn, kernels cut from the cob

32 ounces vegetable stock

DIRECTIONS: Saute the onion, carrot and celery in a large stockpot set over medium heat until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, tomato paste, oregano, salt, pepper and parsley to the pot and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the tomatoes to the stock in the pot and bring the soup to a simmer. Once the soup reaches a simmer add the potatoes, zucchini and green beans and cook, covered, for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Remove from the heat and stir in the corn kernels. Taste the soup and adjust seasonings as necessary with salt and pepper. Garnish with some fresh parsley and serve with crusty sour dough rolls.

Source: "The Soupbox Cookbook

Spicy Beef with Ramen Noodle Soup

1 medium onion, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon chili paste

32 ounces beef broth

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 pound ramen noodles (or rice vermicelli)

1 pound beef flank steak, cut across the grain into 1/8 inch slices

Fresh scallions, sliced for garnish

DIRECTIONS: Bring a large pot of salted water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Keep hot to cook noodles while preparing the rest of the soup.

Saute the onion, carrot and celery in the canola oil in a large stockpot over medium heat until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, soy sauce and chili paste, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the beef broth and fish sauce, and bring to a simmer.

At this point drop the noodles into the hot water and cook the rest of the soup while the noodles are cooking.

Once a simmer is reached in the soup pot, add the flank steak to the hot broth, cooking until just done, about 5 to 8 minutes. Ladle the ramen noodles into four bowls. Top with several ladles of the beefy soup and garnish with fresh scallions.

Source: "The Soupbox Cookbook"

Cuban Black Soybean Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup diced onion

1/4 cup diced green pepper

1/4 cup diced celery

1 cup diced smoked ham

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 (15-oz.) cans black soybeans, not drained

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

2 pinches dried oregano

3 cups low-sodium beef broth

1 teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS: In large saucepan over medium high heat, heat oil. Add ham, onion, green pepper and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are almost tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute. Add all remaining ingredients. Heat to boiling, then reduce to a simmer and cook 45 minutes. (If soup gets too thick, add more water or broth as needed).

Source: The Soyfoods Council

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